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The Pandemics Aftermath on Achievement Gaps

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

FLASHBACK April 2020: Only a few weeks after the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic almost every school district across the country is closed. Leaders are stepping up to make a recovery plan to close the achievement gap virtual schooling will cause. Throughout the United States, plans are being put in place including; shrunk or reframed curriculums, shortened summer vacations, and summer school. Other options on the table include holding students back, moving others up, and creating ‘half-grade’ jumps. These plans are already being met with backlash by teachers and parents. Administrations are worried how they will execute plans to level out education with limited budgets. In New York, school boards anticipated deep budget cuts prior to the pandemic, a revenue loss of $10 billion. Stimulus packages created to see schools through the shut down only reversed those cuts, but left no meat on the bone for bailouts to actually deal with the crisis. CNBC reports that if educational disruptions continue to January students will lose between 6 months to 10 months of learning. It’s a large difference, with minority groups suffering the brute of loss. This is far beyond the typical “summer slide” which already disproportionately effects low-income families. Spring has already shown the gap growing between economic groups and the education they are receiving virtually. 90% of white children were able ‘log into learning’ from home devices while only 70% of Hispanic children and 60% of black students were able to access those same classes.

NOW MARCH 2021: Almost one year after the school closures, students across the country face a new life of online school, hybrid schooling, homeschool or some new format entirely, created out of the stress of the pandemic. The summer of 2020 led some parents to turn away from public schools in favor of other options. A conservative estimate by predicts there was 10% increase in homeschoolers. The site also breaks down ethnicity statistics, claiming 59% of homeschoolers are white and only 8% are black. Hispanics make up 26% with Asian or Pacific Islanders forming the last 3%. Learning pods, “pandemic pods”, micro-schools or nano-schools have also popped up around the country. These small groups of students learn together outside a classroom but still in person. Some pods are run by hired tutors, retired teachers, or teachers taking the ‘pandemic off’. In other pods, teaching duties are shared among parents or treated like a home-schooling co-op with an agreed-upon curriculm. You can suspect that ethnicity make ups of these pods are similar to those of traditional homeschooling. Still other families, with the financial means to do so, turned to private schools. Wither these families are going to stick to their 2020-2021 educational plans when the pandemic calms and public schools reopen is yet to be seen.

Most low-income families can’t afford these options, leaving them without a choice but to face public schools virtual or dual virtual/in-person offerings. Cohort systems in place in may schools mean very little to working families when school districts are repeatedly forced to close due to outbreaks. Often these closures come with less than a days’ notice leaving families struggling to find childcare and flounder to work adequate hours to support their families. The home education these children are receiving, in compared to the families who had the ability to OPT-OUT of public school this year, are drastically different. According to NCCP 73% of low-income families who are supported by full time workers have less than a high school diploma. When many of these adult’s struggle to read or write, they are little help in assisting in the education of their primary school children.

Future Fall 2021: What does all this mean for fall 2021? ABC news claims school leaders around the country are planning for the possibility of more distance learning next fall. The further explain “The pivot to distance learning last march has proved a lifeline for the education system, but concerns have grown with each passing month about the effects on racial inequities, students' academic performance, attendance and their overall well being.” How will school districts play catch up to level out the playing field between economic classes. Is it even possible to catch this many students up, that are now so far behind?


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